COVID-19: Report from Prof. Marcello Pacifico, CESI Europe Academy Vice President & ANIEF President

Prof. Marcello Pacifico – National President of ANIEF, as well as CISAL Confederal Secretary and CONFEDIR Organizing Secretary, spoke on the dramatic situation in Italy, about the consequences related to the unrestrained spread of Covid-19 and the trade union activities.

“As a President and as a man, I feel the need to share with you all the deep concern for this recent, incessant and pressing dramatic situation, which has inevitably swept over our beloved country and our lives”.

The numbers in Italy speak clearly and make noise: 59,138 total cases, 46,638 infected, only 7,024 healed, 5,476 deaths.

We are worried, but our work and our commitment continue; we adapt ourselves to the increasingly frequent decrees of the Conte government. Due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 and to the consequent declaration by the WHO of the pandemic state, the Italian Government has correctly and drastically limited the freedom of movement for all of us. It has imposed drastic closures of all non-essential activities and has suspended all school activities in the national territory to protect the health of workers, students and their families.

We also note that the precautions taken by the Italian Government are not applied in too many other countries in Europe and in the world, which seem to remain unaware of the dangers that Covid-19 poses to human health. What is happening is dramatic, and with bitterness, in our hearts, we are witnessing the negligence of these countries that have not yet taken the necessary measures to prevent the propagation of the virus, hence further contagions and deaths.

But what are we doing, as a union?

We are active supporters of the #iorestoacasa motto (#Istayathome), but we do not abandon our greatest vocation: defending the workers of the school sector, their protection and the protection of their rights.

Despite the lockdown and the closure to the public, of all the trade union’s offices in the area, the national and territorial telephone and telematics consultancy services remain active. We must be smart-working, since our trade union does not stop and always wishes to write new pages in the history of the protection of workers’ rights – especially now, in the time of the Coronavirus.

Following further measures applicable to the red areas and their extension to the whole national territory, and in light of the umpteenth record of contagions and deaths, all educational activities of schools and universities have been suspended until April 3rd. Personally, I immediately requested the closure of all school and Universities locations until April 15th to allow school staff and directors to stay home.

Since freedom of teaching must always -and in any circumstance- be protected and encouraged, requests for clarification of the management methods on how to teach via the web (which have been launched weeks ago) are increasing. This is the teaching procedure that all schools are promoting to tackle the suspension of school and teacher’s activities scheduled until April 3rd.

It is obvious that the difficulties in carrying out the work under these conditions are manifold. However, the teachers have shown and are showing that they want to face these challenges and pursue their commitment to continue to maintain active contact with their students; although there are no contractual obligations in this regard.

Our trade union reiterates that it is necessary to operate with greater attention to the risk of the digital divide: a concrete danger given that not all families have Wi-Fi networks, computers or other electronic devices to use. Good news come with the Cura Italia Decree, through which millions of euros are allocated to counter this shortcoming. It is designed to support less well-off students use and to allow them the use of individual digital devices; this can serve to buffer the situation and to bring to a successful end the current school year, despite all challenges. It should be remembered that, although good practices are in use in some case, Italy still lags behind in terms of IT.

Following the Decree-Law n.18 of 17th of March 2020, all schools’ recruitment competitions and procedures are suspended. With competitions blocked, recruitment remains at a stalemate – and this will solidify the situation of thousands of precarious workers, who, for a long time have now been fighting, together with us, to achieve long-awaited stabilization of their work contracts. Our trade union has asked for an extraordinary stabilization plan to allow continuous recruitment via a third recruitment channel: the Institute rankings. So to finally put an end to the phenomenon of “substitutes”.

We are sure to continue to follow the evolution of this emergency, having as an additional priority also the protection of the safety and health of school staff serving abroad. In fact, our Constitution guarantees to the Italian citizens the right to safety and health at work, a right which cannot have boundaries and which must also be guaranteed to teachers carrying out a central task: the diffusion of the Italian language and culture in the world.

In this particular context, our trade union also remains active and committed: we have sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Luigi Di Maio, to the Minister of Education, Ms Lucia Azzolina, and to the Minister of Health, Mr Roberto Speranza, in order to protect teachers and their families who are currently abroad, so that these school professionals can swiftly be guaranteed their rights to safety and health at work-  not least through the organization of special repatriation flights for those who have good reasons and who are in good health.

With great satisfaction, after the following ANIEF´s letter to the competent Ministers on 19th of March 2020, further provisions relating to the Covid-19 emergency were taken by Minister Mr Roberto Vellano. Thanks to ANIEF’s tenacity and competence, school staff on-duty abroad who need to return to Italy can now come back to our country.

Teachers abroad can also apply for holidays to return first, and then ask to be placed under Art.186 of Presidential Decree 18/67 so to activate the distance learning programme. This result is a great achievement and rewards our efforts in this difficult moment. And it strengthens our way of work as a transparent trade union.

We are confident that this pandemic will soon pass, and that the dramatic numbers will be the cause of an enormous about-turn. As Italians citizens and as ANIEF, we will continue to be fervent supporters of agile work. In the interest of our trade union, of all the employees, co-workers, associates and teachers, and not least of our country, we will engage in distance learning.

With are confident that, despite these difficult times, the autonomous trade unions will guarantee the consultancy and remote protection activities for all employees and managers of the public and private sectors.

We agree with the Government: To avoid an ever greater contagion and that the country will lose even more human lives, additional time is needed.

After all, the school has never stopped – and we will not stop.

We won’t have a break. We are and will remain all united for our beloved Country that we hope will soon experience a real and intense spring.

Prof. Marcello Pacifico

CESI Europe Academy Vice President

ANIEF President

CISAL Confederal Secretary

CONFEDIR Organizing Secretary